‘You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free’. How do you know the truth? Arm yourselves with knowledge and understanding. Someone once said ‘if you think knowledge is expensive, try ignorance’. Without knowledge and understanding the truth will most likely be elusive. Many times we are misinformed by those in position of power and influence without us knowing so.
We need to inform ourselves enough to know the difference between being misinformed and being informed by those in power. Being informed I mean you are given sufficient knowledge that empowers you to sufficiently understand the world around you in order for you to make informed choices.
With this knowledge, you as an individual will be able to discern the truth and take appropriate action. I have posted a number of articles in this publication and have received overwhelming encouragement to share more. More and more Batswana want to know the truth about their country. I will continue to share as a way of giving back to my fellow citizens. Some will criticise and some will embrace, but, as we begin to engage each other positively we will all learn something from each other and more importantly find ways to help each other.
I stumbled upon a book by some writer, Allen White entitled “The Great Hope’’. I was immediately inspired to write about the great hope I desire for our country and people. The great hope that one day this country will be able to reach its full potential in terms of development. The great hope that one day all our people young and old, rich and poor will be engaged meaningfully in the transformation of their country.
The great hope that one day the rich resources that God has richly bestowed upon this country will be enjoyed fully by all our people. The great hope that one day the leadership will understand that they are servants and not masters of the people. The great hope that one day our leaders will understand that each person has a specific role to play in the development of this country. No one is a mistake! The great hope that our leaders will understand that we are building a foundation for future generations.
As I went through the pages of this book, my attention was drawn to a chapter entitled “Why there is suffering?” Suffering, what suffering, I asked myself? It donned on me that there is indeed suffering; silent suffering endured every day by many of our people. This hidden suffering reminded me of a scientific observation that a frog will suffer silently until it dies if it settles in an open bowl of water that is slowly being heated up.
The poor frog does not realise that the water is heating up and now boiling. It accepts the situation and does not take action until it eventually dies in that situation. The tragedy is that the frog is not aware that it is in a life threatening situation. Many of our people have been made to accept situations similar to that of this frog. They do not have knowledge to understand the grim situations around them and therefore they will not take appropriate action.
Yes, there is suffering! The gross unemployment and under-employment that should have long been eliminated is causing immeasurable suffering. The pain has made some of the unemployed accept the situation as their fate. Many have been removed from the list of the unemployed. We have graduates, educated at a huge cost to nation, who are roaming the streets with nothing meaningful to do. We have interns who are filing and making tea in offices with no prospects for permanent jobs. We have poverty amongst our people which have been allowed to grow unchecked.
We have suffering in many dark corners of this republic; the elderly, the disabled, the sick in hospitals with inadequate health care systems; the children who walk long distances to school and being taught under trees in bad weather with inadequate clothing; the children whose education condemns them to a life without any prospects for advancement and prosperity; teachers and officers with inadequate accommodation, where more than one family share one small house; the starving wages imposed on the majority of employees! The list is long; our people who are subjected to unfair treatment by authorities because ‘ke bo eseng mang’; corruption, nepotism, favouritism in high places. Yes there is suffering.
The people who are subjected to this suffering eventually, like the frog accept the suffering as normal and ‘die’ or resort to some undesirable means to survive or to endure the suffering. Only a coherent, selfless, truthful and caring leadership will bring this suffering under control.
This article is meant for deep introspection for our people especially those within the opposition ranks. I believe God’s plan of hope and prosperity for this nation will be achieved through a united opposition that is God fearing and stands for justice and fair play for all. So it is imperative for them to introspect and build an inclusive, corruption-free formidable force for change.
I now paraphrase and adapt from the chapter entitled ‘why there is suffering’ to buttress my point:
‘Before the entrance of sin in the universe there was peace and joy throughout. Love for God was supreme. Love for one another was impartial. The law of love was the foundation of God’s government. The happiness of all the created beings depended on their acceptance of the principles of justice and righteousness. God took no pleasure in forced allegiance and therefore granted all free will, so that they may render Him voluntary service. Some highly placed son chose to pervert this freedom and sin entered’.
‘Leaving his place in the presence of God, the son went forth to spread discontent amongst the inhabitants of heaven. Mysteriously concealing his real purpose he endeavored to excite dissatisfaction concerning laws that governed heavenly beings, intimating that they were unfair and limiting. He urged them to obey only the dictates of their own will. He claimed he was not aiming for self-exaltation but was seeking to secure liberty for all the inhabitants so that they may attain higher level of existence’.
‘He was not moved from his privileged position in heaven, even when he began presenting false claims before the inhabitants. Again and again he was offered pardon on condition of repentance and submission. At first he did not understand the real selfish nature of his actions, but as his dissatisfaction was proved to be unfounded and convinced that the divine claims were true and just, pride forbade him from acknowledging before all heavens and to repent. He instead, resolved that there was no need for repentance and fully committed himself to continued confrontation with his father’.
‘He intensified his deception to secure the sympathy of the inhabitants. All those who did not agree with him; he accused of indifference to the interests of the heavenly beings. It became his policy to manipulate the inhabitants with defiant and subtle arguments concerning the purpose of his father. By artful perversion he cast doubt upon every statement made by his father. His position gave him power and influence and many were induced to unite with him. He remained stubborn and defiant claiming to be an innocent victim. He was eventually banished from heaven for ever’.
I would like to challenge our opposition parties to look at the above probing story closely and ask themselves these questions. Who is responsible for the perpetuation of suffering in our country, the land of bountiful resources? What should be done now to get our people out of this suffering? I would like the leadership in particular and the members in general to look in the mirror and see if there are not partly or entirely responsible for this suffering.
Have we not deviated from the cause to liberate our people? Have we not allowed ourselves as individuals to be used, misled and made to turn against each other by cunningly undermining one another and claiming undeserved supremacy like the son in the story? Are we honest and not pursuing selfish interests at the expense of our people? How long has this been going on? Are there any irreconcilable differences within the opposition ranks or are there only personal differences and preferences that have taken centre stage? We need to reconcile our artificial differences and become one big force for change. We should not get to a point where some are ‘banished forever’.
We need to collectively get our people to understand the issues around them to avoid being easily manipulated by those self-seeking individuals who want power at any cost. Hitler once said, ‘if you tell lies all the time eventually people will accept these lies as truths’. RB, BTV and Botswana daily newspaper are used as government propaganda machines meant to prevent the real suffering in the country from being revealed.
These government news agencies are micromanaged to report in such a way that makes it appear that the government is caring, does not have adequate resources and uses the available resources prudently to serve its citizens. The president goes around the country at the expense of the nation giving out blankets, radios, houses and soup. Our people need self-sustaining programs not sympathy from the president. We know the country has unmatched resources in the region and these resources are used corruptly by the privileged few. The false picture presented to the unsuspecting public and the international community severely compromises the reality on the ground.
It is therefore important that all those who can see through this musk, must work together to fight the injustices imposed on our people. Working together will have the desired effect of getting more with less! The financial, the manpower and the intellectual capacity will multiply. The reach to our people will be much wider and deeper. The support from local and international interests will multiply.
The ability to remove the musk for the truth and the reality to be seen will be magnified.
The elections are gone and the people have spoken and spoken very clearly. True leaders have heard the people and will honour their voice. Those in the opposition ranks who want to justify a so called ‘multiparty’ democracy are missing the point. Batswana have spoken and want one voice against the ruling party. This one voice is the voice of the government in waiting.
The 801,000 people who did not vote will only vote to support a ‘two’ party democracy. With our small population, it is naive to be divided into small parties. It is even more naive to expect their vote to make any difference in the outcome the election especially with these parties are selling the same election package. Have it ever occurred to you that the multiplicity of parties was meant to allow the ruling party to be kept in power forever? It is the old ‘divide and rule’ dictum that has worked to keep the one party a perpetual winner. These people are saying, ‘swallow your pride, work together and we will support you.’
In closing, only those leaders, blinded by their own desire for top leadership positions will continue to advocate for divisions within the opposition ranks, despite the loud voice coming from the electorate. It is time for the opposition to come together as one, fight as one, speak with one voice for the sole purpose of truly liberating our people from the shackles of the current misguided government and for building a solid foundation for future generations.
“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” Carl Sagan
Corruption is a heavy price to pay. The clean ones pay and suffer at the mercy of people who cannot have enough. They always want to eat and eat so selfishly like a bunch of ugly masked shrews. I hope God forgives me for ridiculing his creatures, but that mammal is so greedy. But corruption is not the new kid on the block, because it has always been everywhere.
This of course begs the question, why that is so? The common answer was and still is – abuse and misuse of power by those in power and weak institutions, disempowered to control the leaders. In 1996, the then President of The World Bank, James D. Wolfensohn named the ‘C-Word’ for the first time during an annual meeting of the Bretton Woods Institutions. A global fight against corruption started. Transparency International began its work. Internal and external audits mushroomed; commissions of inquiry followed and ever convoluted public tender procedures have become a bureaucratic nightmare to the private sector, trying to fight red tape.
The result is sobering corruption today is worse than it was 25 years ago. There is no denying that strong institutions help, but how does it come that in the annual Transparency International Ranking the same group of countries tend to be on the top while another group of countries, many African among them, tend to be on the bottom? Before one jumps to simple and seductive conclusions let us step back a moment.
Wolfensohn called corruption a cancer that destroys economies like a cancer destroys a body. A cancer is, simplified, good cells in a body gone bad, taking control of more and more good cells until the entire body is contaminated and eventually dies. So, let us look at the good cells of society first: they are family ties, clan and tribe affiliation, group cohesion, loyalty, empathy, reciprocity.
Most ordinary people like the reader of these lines or myself would claim to share such values. Once we ordinary people must make decisions, these good cells kick in: why should I hire a Mrs. Unknown, if I can hire my niece whose strengths and weaknesses I know? If I hire the niece, she will owe me and support my objectives.
Why should I purchase office furniture from that unknown company if I know that my friend’s business has good quality stuff? If I buy from him, he will make an extra effort to deliver his best and provide quality after sales service? So, why go through a convoluted tender process with uncertain outcome? In the unlikely case my friend does not perform as expected, I have many informal means to make him deliver, rather than going through a lengthy legal proceeding?
This sounds like common sense and natural and our private lives do work mostly that way and mostly quite well.
The problem is scale. Scale of power, scale of potential gains, scale of temptations, scale of risk. And who among us could throw the first stone were we in positions of power and claim not to succumb to the temptations of scale? Like in a body, cancer cells start growing out of proportion.
So, before we call out for new leaders – experience shows they are rarely better than the old ones – we need to look at ourselves first. But how easy is that? If I were the niece who gets the job through nepotism, why should I be overly critical? If I got a big furniture contract from a friend, why should I spill the beans? What right do I have to assume that, if I were a president or a minister or a corporate chief procurement officer I would not be tempted?
This is where we need to learn. What is useful, quick, efficient, and effective within a family or within a clan or a small community can become counterproductive and costly and destructive at larger corporate or national scale. Our empathy with small scale reciprocity easily permeates into complacency and complicity with large scale corruption and into an acquiescence with weak institutions to control it.
Our institutions can only be as strong as we wish them to be.
I was probably around ten years old and have always been that keen enthusiastic child that also liked to sing the favourite line of, ‘the world will become a better place.’ I would literally stand in front of a mirror and use my mom’s torch as a mic and sing along Michael Jackson’s hit song, ‘We are the world.’
Despite my horrible voice, I still believed in the message. Few years later, my annoyance towards the world’s corrupt system wonders whether I was just too naïve. Few years later and I am still in doubt so as to whether I should go on blabbing that same old boring line. ‘The world is going to be a better place.’ The question is, when?
The answer is – as always: now.
This is pessimistic if not fatalistic – I challenge Sagan’s outlook with a paraphrased adage of unknown origin: Some people can be bamboozled all of the time, all people can be bamboozled some of the time, but never will all people be bamboozled all of the time.
We, the people are the only ones who can heal society from the cancer of corruption. We need to understand the temptation of scale and address it. We need to stop seeing ourselves just a victim of a disease that sleeps in all of us. We need to give power to the institutions that we have put in place to control corruption: parliaments, separation of power, the press, the ballot box. And sometimes we need to say as a niece – no, I do not want that job as a favour, I want it because I have proven to be better than other contenders.
It is going to be a struggle, because it will mean sacrifices, but sacrifices that we have chosen, not those imposed on us.
Let us start today.
*Bokani Lisa Motsu is a student at University of Botswana
Parliament, the second arm of State through its parliamentary committees are one of Botswana’s most powerful mechanisms to ensure that government is held accountable at all times. The Accounting Officers are mostly Permanent Secretaries across government Ministries and Chief Executive Officers, Director Generals, Managing Directors of parastatals, state owned enterprises and Civil Society.
So parliament plays its oversight authority via the legislators sitting on a parliamentary committee and Accounting Officers sitting in the hot chair. When left with no proper checks and balances, the Executive is prone to abuse the arrangement and so systematic oversight of the executive is usually carried out by parliamentary committees. They track the work of various government departments and ministries, and conduct scrutiny into important aspects of their policy, direction and administration.
It is not rocket science that effective oversight requires that committees be totally independent and able to set their own agendas and have the power to summon ministers and top civil servants to appear and answer questions. Naturally, Accounting Officers are the highest ranking officials in the government hierarchy apart from cabinet Ministers and as such wield much power and influence in the performance of government. To illustrate further, government performance is largely owed to the strategic and policy direction of top technocrats in various Ministries.
It is disheartening to point out that the recent parliament committees — as has been the case all over the years — has laid bare the incompetency, inadequacy and ineptitude of people bestowed with great responsibilities in public offices. To say that they are ineffective and inefficient sounds as an understatement. Some appear useless and hopeless when it comes to running the government despite the huge responsibility they possess.
If we were uncertain about the degree at which the Accounting Officers are incompetent, the ongoing parliament committees provide a glaring answer. It is not an exaggeration to say that ordinary people on the streets have been held ransom by these technocrats who enjoy their air conditioned offices and relish being chauffeured around in luxurious BX SUV’s while the rest of the citizenry continue to suffer. Because of such high life the Accounting Officers seem to have, with time, they have gotten out of touch with the people they are supposed to serve.
An example; when appearing before the recent Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Office of the President Permanent Secretary, Thuso Ramodimoosi, looked reluctant to admit misuse of public funds. Although it is clear funds were misused, he looked unbothered when committee members grilled him over the P80 million Orapa House building that has since morphed into a white elephant for close to 10 successive years. To him, it seems it did not matter much and PAC members were worried for nothing.
On a separate day, another Accounting officer, Director of Public Service Management (DPSM), Naledi Mosalakatane, was not shy to reveal to PAC upon cross-examination that there exist more than 6 000 vacancies in government. Whatever reasons she gave as an excuse, they were not convincing and the committee looked sceptical too. She was faltering and seemed not to have a sense of urgency over the matter no matter how critical it is to the populace.
Botswana’s unemployment rate hoovers around 18 percent in a country where majority of the population is the youth, and the most affected by unemployment. It is still unclear why DPSM could underplay such a critical matter that may threaten the peace and stability of the country. Accounting Officers clearly appear out of touch with the reality out there – if the PAC examinations are anything to go by.
Ideally the DPSM Director could be dropping the vacancy post digits while sourcing funds and setting timelines for the spaces to be filled as a matter of urgency so that the citizens get employed to feed their families and get out of unemployment and poverty ravaging the country. The country should thank parliamentary committees such as PAC to expose these abnormalities and the behaviour of our leaders when in public office. How can a full Accounting Officer downplay the magnitude of the landless problem in Botswana and fail to come with direct solutions tailor made to provide Batswana with the land they desperately need?
Land is a life and death matter for some citizens, as we would know.
When Bonolo Khumotaka, the Accounting Officer in the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, whom as a top official probably with a lucrative pay too appears to be lacking sense of urgency as she is failing on her key mandate of working around the clock to award the citizens with land especially those who need it most like the marginalised. If government purports they need P94 billion to service land to address the land crisis what is plan B for government? Are we going to accept it the way it is?
Government should wake up from its slumber and intervene to avoid the 30 years unnecessary waiting period in State land and 13 years in Tribal land. Accounting Officers are custodians of government policy, they should ensure it is effective and serve its purpose. What we have been doing over the years, has proved that it is not effective, and clearly there is a need for change of direction.
His Excellency Dr Mokgweetsi EK Masisi, the President of the Republic of Botswana found it appropriate to invoke Section 17 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Botswana, using the powers vested in him to declare a State of Public Emergency starting from the 2nd April 2020 at midnight.
The constitutional provision under Section 17 (2b) only provided that such a declaration could be up to a maximum of 21 days. His Excellency further invoked Section 93 (1) to convene an extra- ordinary meeting of Parliament to have the opportunity to consult members of parliament on measures that have been put in place to address the spread and transmission of the virus. At this meeting Members of Parliament passed a resolution on the legal instruments and regulations governing the period of the state of emergency, and extended its duration by six (6) months.
The passing of the State of Emergency is considered as a very crucial step in fighting the near apocalyptic potential of the Novel COVID-19 virus. One of the interesting initiatives that was developed and extended to the business community was a 3-month wage subsidy that came with a condition that no businesses would retrench for the duration of the State of Public Emergency. This has potentially saved many people’s jobs as most companies would have been extremely quick to reduce expenses by downsizing. Self-preservation as some would call it.
Most organisations would have tried to reduce costs by letting go of people, retreated and tried their best to live long enough to fight another day. In my view there is silver lining that we need to look at and consider. The fact that organisations are not allowed to retrench has forced certain companies to look at the people with a long-term view.
Most leaders have probably had to wonder how they are going to ensure that their people are resilient. Do they have team members who innovate and add value to the organisation during these testing times? Do they even have resilient people or are they just waiting for the inevitable end? Can they really train people and make them resilient? How can your team members be part of your recovery plan? What can they do to avoid losing the capabilities they need to operate meaningfully for the duration of the State of Public Emergency and beyond?
The above questions have forced companies to reimagine the future of work. The truth is that no organisation can operate to its full potential without resilient people. In the normal business cycle, new teams come on board; new business streams open, operations or production sites launch or close; new markets develop, and technology is introduced. All of this provides fresh opportunities – and risks.
The best analogy I have seen of people-focused resilience planning reframes employees as your organisation’s immune system, ready and prepared to anticipate risks and ensure they can tackle challenges, fend off illness and bounce back more quickly. So, how do you supercharge your organizational immune system to become resilient?
COVID-19 has helped many organisations realize they were not as prepared as they believed themselves to be. Now is the time to take stock and reset for the future. All the strategies and plans prior to COVID-19 arriving in Botswana need to be thrown out of the window and you need to develop a new plan today. There is no room for tweaking or reframing. Botswana has been disrupted and we need to accept and embrace the change. What we initially anticipated as a disease that would take a short term is turning out to be something we are going to have to live with for a much longer time. It is going to be a marathon and therefore businesses need to have a plan to complete this marathon.
Start planning. Planning for change can help reduce employee stress, anxiety, and overall fear, boosting the confidence of staff and stakeholders. Think about conducting and then regularly refreshing a strategic business impact analysis, look at your employee engagement scores, dig into your customer metrics and explore the way people work alongside your behaviours and culture. This research will help to identify what you really want to protect, the risks that you need to plan for and what you need to survive during disruption. Don’t forget to ask your team members for their input. In many cases they are closest to critical business areas and already have ideas to make processes and systems more robust.
Revisit your organisational purpose. Purpose, values and principles are powerful tools. By putting your organisation’s purpose and values front and center, you provide clear decision-making guidelines for yourself and your organisation. There are very tough and interesting decisions to make which have to be made fast; so having guiding principles on which the business believes in will help and assist all decision makers with sanity checking the choices that are in front of them. One noticeable characteristic of companies that adapt well during change is that they have a strong sense of identity. Leaders and employees have a shared sense of purpose and a common performance culture; they know what the company stands for beyond shareholder value and how to get things done right.
Revisit your purpose and values. Understand if they have been internalised and are proving useful. If so, find ways to increase their use. If not, adapt them as necessities, to help inspire and guide people while immunizing yourself against future disruption. Design your employee experience. The most resilient, adaptive and high performing companies are made up of people who know each other, like each other, and support each other.
Adaptability requires us to teach other, speak up and discuss problems, and have a collective sense of belonging. Listening to your team members is a powerful and disruptive thing to do. It has the potential to transform the way you manage your organisation. Enlisting employees to help shape employee experience, motivates better performance, increases employee retention and helps you spot issues and risks sooner. More importantly, it gives employees a voice so you can get active and constructive suggestions to make your business more robust by adopting an inclusive approach.
Leaders need to show they care. If you want to build resilience, you must build on a basis of trust. And this means leaders should listen, care, and respond. It’s time to build the entire business model around trust and empathy. Many of the employees will be working under extreme pressure due to the looming question around what will happen when companies have to retrench. As a leader of a company transparency and open communication are the most critical aspects that need to be illustrated.
Take your team member into confidence because if you do have to go through the dreaded excise of retrenchment you have to remember that those people the company retains will judge you based on the process you follow. If you illustrate that the business or organization has no regard for loyalty and commitment, they will never commit to the long-term plans of the organisation which will leave you worse off in the end. Its an absolutely delicate balance but it must all be done in good faith. Hopefully, your organization will avoid this!
This is the best time to revisit your identify and train your people to encourage qualities that build strong, empathetic leadership; self-awareness and control, communication, kindness and psychological safety. Resilience is the glue that binds functional silos and integrates partners, improves communications, helps you prepare, listen and understand. Most importantly, people-focused resilience helps individuals and teams to think collectively and with empathy – helping you respond and recover faster.
Article written by Thabo Majola, a brand communications expert with a wealth of experience in the field and is Managing Director of Incepta Communications.